written by On June 17, 2019 in Book Club, WIIS Blog

Author of The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism

The early twenty-first century has been defined by a rise in Islamist radicalisation and a concurrent rise in far-right extremism. This book explores the interaction between the 'new' far right and Islamist extremists and considers the consequences for the global terror threat. Julia Ebner argues that far right and Islamist extremist narratives - 'The West is at war with Islam' and 'Muslims are at war with the West' - complement each other perfectly, making the two extremes rhetorical allies and building a spiralling torrent of hatred - 'The Rage'. By looking at extremist movements both online and offline, she shows how far right and Islamist extremists have succeeded in penetrating each other's echo chambers as a result of their mutually useful messages. Based on first-hand interviews, this book introduces readers to the world of reciprocal radicalisation and the hotbeds of extremism that have developed - with potentially disastrous consequences - in the UK, Europe and the US.

The WIIS Global Team was delighted to speak with distinguished author and researcher Julia Ebner. Julia currently works as a Resident Research Fellow with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) in London where she focuses on far-right extremism, reciprocal radicalization and European terrorism prevention initiatives. As detailed by ISD, Julia holds an MSc (Dist) in International History from London School of Economics and an MSc (Dist) in International Relations from Peking University. She completed her undergraduate studies with a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and a BSc in International Business.

Julia got her start in this field as a researcher at Quilliam, the world’s oldest counter-extremism organization. Initially, Julia focused on Islamist extremism in the wake of Jihadist violence in Paris and across Europe. Not long after beginning this work, she began to notice a significant backlash across Europe in response to these flashpoints of mass violence. In June 2016, Labour Party MP Jo Cox was tragically murdered by a man screaming “Britain First”. This shocking murder marked a stark turning point in how both the counter-extremism field and Julia thought about the threat of far-right extremism.

We asked Julia to share the controversial assertion she ventures in the text. In response, Julia noted criticism on the scope of extremism that her text examined. For example, some critics have wondered why her research has not addressed far-left extremism. But Julia stands by her decision to build her analysis around the interplay of far-right and Islamist extremism. She’s likened this criticism to an anatomical research investigation of the stomach and kidney. Why didn’t this study include an analysis of the heart, a comparable critic might venture? The heart as an organ lacks the parallel relationship that the stomach and kidney occupy. The same goes for the two types of extremist activity that Julia chose to analyze.

Reviews

‘An original and highly informative book on one of the core security issues of our time. The Rage demonstrates powerfully how apparently opposite strands of extremism feed so readily off each other and, in doing so, it illuminates the extent of the problems facing us. Essential reading.’– Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies,

Bradford University and author of Irregular War ‘An excellent debut: informed, well-researched and thoughtful. Ebner traces the increasingly important interdependency of far-right and Islamist movements, and offers humane, smart ways through the impasse.’ – Jamie Bartlett, author of Radicals

‘This book brings alive the causes and consequences of far-right extremism and Islamist radicalism in our midst. These two forms of rising bigotry threaten to tear our societies apart. Ebner exposes them both and powerfully calls on us to defend liberal tolerance. The Rage is an excellent master course for those seeking to understand the growth of fanaticism.’– Ed Husain, author of The Islamist

She shared that these forms of extremism have been the most statistically significant although that doesn’t mean that the threat can’t evolve and take on new shapes. In fact, the threat most certainly will adapt, and adapt quickly.

We asked Julia what she hopes readers of her book take away from it. She said that she wants readers to know that any attempt to counter only one form of extremism, without understanding the other, is doomed to fail. For example, the Trump Administration’s decision to cut spending on anti-racism and far-right extremism programs hurts their broader goals to eradicate the extremist and terrorist threats.

We also asked Julia about the most meaningful conversation or speaking opportunity she’s had since she wrote her book. While Julia has been able to participate in a myriad of incredible speaking engagements at institutions such as the UN, World Bank, and numerous tech firms, she has found that engaging with young audiences in far-right hotbeds has been the most meaningful type of engagement so far.She recalled a collaboration with the National Center for Political Education in Saxony, Eastern Germany where she had the chance to visit schools and raise awareness about radicalization techniques that students may encounter, if they have not already.

Before parting ways, we asked Julia what advice she would give to other young women professionals in the field. She reflected that one of the important pieces of advice she learned throughout her career thus far was that one should not select experiences or opportunities based on the way they would look on one’s CV. Young professionals should instead focus on where they want to have an impact and pursue that. Trends and threats in the security field are so quickly evolving that you must trust your intuition, even if that intuition is not yet considered a concern by experts in the field or there is not a clear career path lying ahead.

Click here to learn more about the WIIS Book Club and our June 2019 pick.

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